BA in Graphic Design: The Definitive Guide & Top Schools

Working in graphic design will allow you to use your creativity to communicate with others.

Although degrees aren’t a requirement for working in this field, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in graphic design will provide you with a broader range of opportunities.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in graphic design, here’s what you should know.

What Will I Learn in a Graphic Design Program?

Graphic design programs have a well-rounded curriculum covering various aspects of visual communication.

Depending on the area of specialization, the curriculum may include website visual design, studio art, computerized design, motion graphics, printing techniques, commercial graphics production, typography, and other similar coursework.

These courses provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge to design and create visual content for various media platforms like print, web, and mobile.

Design principles are also essential to the curriculum, including design theory and the design process.

Students learn to develop creative concepts and ideas, analyze and solve design problems, and work with clients effectively.

These courses help students develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for success in the industry.

Apart from the technical and creative aspects, degree programs provide a liberal arts education.

Courses in art history, sociology, psychology, writing, foreign languages/cultural studies, marketing, and business, among others, provide students with a well-rounded education.

These courses enable aspiring graphic designers to become more well-rounded and better prepared for their industry, which typically requires a great deal of communication and collaborative efforts.

In addition, programs frequently allow students to gain real-world experience through internships.

Students can work directly with clients and industry professionals, gaining hands-on experience and developing critical skills.

Not only is this a chance for students to put together a professional portfolio, but this practical experience prepares them for the demands of the industry.

How to Choose a Good Program

Job opportunities in the graphic design field are limited.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that around 24,800 openings are projected on average each year over the next decade.

Students pursuing a career in this field must carefully consider their education to gain a competitive edge in the job market.

One key aspect to consider when choosing a graphic design program is accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Accreditation by NASAD signifies that a program has been evaluated and found to meet or exceed industry standards.

It’s recognized by hiring managers and other professionals as an indicator of the necessary skills and knowledge for success in the field.

Access to a wide range of software is essential for graphic design students.

When evaluating resumes, employers often look for candidates with experience in Adobe Creative Suite, Canva, and other industry-standard tools.

Students should ensure that schools will give them access to the necessary software and technology to produce high-quality work.

Lastly, students should evaluate the curriculum of different schools.

A good program will give students the chance to work in many different mediums and formats so that they can develop a range of important skills.

Ideally, a school’s curriculum should balance conceptual learning with more practical application.

The right program should give students everything they need for future success.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design?

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design typically takes four years to complete, though it’s important to note that the exact duration of the program may vary based on the institution’s curriculum and the student’s course load.

Some colleges or universities offer accelerated options for students who want to complete their degrees in less time.

On the other hand, students who prefer a more flexible schedule can opt to take on fewer credit hours per semester and extend the duration of their degree program.

Completing internships is a common way for graphic design students to gain practical experience and make connections in the industry.

Internships can vary, but most last between three and six months.

During this time, students may have the opportunity to work on real-world design projects, collaborate with other professionals in the field, and gain insight into the day-to-day operations of a design agency or studio.

Completing an internship can also help students develop a portfolio of work that they can showcase to potential employers, which can increase their chances of landing a job after graduation.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design?

According to a College Board report, public colleges and universities charged $10,560 annually on average during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Rates were even higher at private colleges.

During that same period, the average tuition was a whopping $37,650.

These rates don’t include other costs such as room and board, textbooks, supplies, and transportation, which can add up quickly.

Based on this data, a graphic design degree could cost anywhere from $42,240 to $150,600.

That said, it’s worth noting that total costs can vary by state and school.

Students also have many ways to offset their expenses, including grants and scholarships.

Many colleges and universities also offer financial assistance to qualified students.

There are also other ways to offset the cost of obtaining a graphic design degree.

For example, students can choose to work part-time jobs or internships to help cover their expenses.

They can also opt for lower-cost alternatives, such as attending community college for the first two years and then transferring to a four-year institution to complete their degree.

It’s important for students to research the cost of obtaining a graphic design degree at various schools and to compare financial aid packages offered by different institutions to find the best option for their budget.

While the cost of obtaining a degree can be high, the benefits of a successful career in graphic design can make it a worthwhile investment.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design?

The wide range of career options that are available to graphic design graduates is extremely appealing.

After graduating, designers can work in diverse industries, ranging from marketing to game development.

Statistics show that most graphic designers work for private companies, but they can also work in the public sector or in education.

Many graphic design degrees require specialized skills, so it’s common for students to choose an area of concentration during their studies.

For example, students may focus on UI and interactive design or typography.

Choosing a concentration allows students to dive deeper into a specific aspect or subfield of design, gaining specialized skills and discovering a creative or professional niche.

While there are many jobs you can obtain with a graphic design degree, some of the more popular career paths include:

  • Web design
  • Branding
  • Packaging design
  • Art direction
  • Editorial design
  • Marketing
  • UI design

Should I Get a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design?

When considering a career in graphic design, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining a degree.

While not all positions require a bachelor’s degree, many employers prefer candidates who have completed a four-year program from an accredited institution.

Obtaining a degree can also provide you with the necessary skills to succeed in the field.

Having a degree in graphic design can lead to increased employment opportunities and higher salaries.

Employers and clients are willing to pay more for designers with the necessary experience and education.

However, job demand varies by industry.

While some fields may have fewer job openings, others, such as digital product design, have seen an increased need for graphic designers.

Completing a graphic design degree can provide you with a versatile skill set that can be applied to a variety of roles.

This multifaceted field offers numerous opportunities, allowing graduates to pursue different tasks and roles if they’re not happy in their current position.

Collaboration is also a common requirement in graphic design, so it’s important to consider whether you enjoy working with others.

Although graphic design is a creative field, some tasks related to the job can be mundane or repetitive.

It’s important to consider whether you’re comfortable with these aspects of the job.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue a career in graphic design should be based on whether you’re interested in a field that allows you to showcase your creativity and originality, while also possessing strong communication skills.